With its high cost of living, California can be an expensive place to get by. So is an income of $70,000 actually a good salary in the Golden State? The quick answer is yes, $70k is considered an above-average, decent salary in California for a single person. However, for households, families or those living in expensive metro areas, this income may only provide a moderate or middle-class lifestyle.

This comprehensive guide will analyze the average cost of living across California, what $70k in earnings translates to from a spending perspective, how it compares to state averages, and what salaries are considered good based on your household size and location.

California’s High Cost of Living

Living in California comes with a high price tag, making it one of the most expensive states in the United States. From housing to daily expenses, the cost of living in California can be quite daunting for many individuals and families.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the major factors contributing to the high cost of living in the Golden State.


When it comes to housing, California is notorious for its sky-high prices. The demand for housing far exceeds the supply, driving up prices in major cities like San Francisco, Los Angeles, and San Diego.

Renting an apartment or buying a house can take a significant chunk out of your paycheck, especially in popular areas. According to Zillow, the median home value in California is around $550,000, which is significantly higher than the national average.

Additionally, the cost of renting a one-bedroom apartment in cities like San Francisco can easily surpass $3,000 per month.


While the cost of groceries in California may not be significantly higher than the national average, dining out can be quite expensive. Trendy restaurants and high-end eateries are abundant, but they come with a hefty price tag.

However, there are also plenty of affordable options available, especially in diverse cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Buying groceries and cooking meals at home can help individuals save money on food expenses.


Utilities, including electricity, water, and internet, can also contribute to the high cost of living in California. The state’s warm climate often leads to higher electricity bills due to increased air conditioning usage.

Additionally, water scarcity issues in certain areas can result in higher water prices. While internet costs can vary depending on the provider, it’s important to budget for these expenses when considering the overall cost of living in California.


Getting around in California can be costly, especially if you rely on a personal vehicle. Gas prices tend to be higher than the national average, and depending on your location, you may also encounter toll roads or parking fees.

Public transportation options, such as buses and trains, can be more affordable alternatives, but they may not always be convenient or accessible, particularly in suburban or rural areas.

It’s important to note that these are just a few factors that contribute to the high cost of living in California. Other expenses such as healthcare, taxes, and childcare can also significantly impact an individual’s budget.

While $70,000 may seem like a good salary, it may not stretch as far in California compared to other states with a lower cost of living.

$70k Salary Buying Power in California

Average Rent

One of the biggest expenses to consider when analyzing the buying power of a $70k salary in California is the cost of rent. The average rent in California varies greatly depending on location, with major cities like San Francisco and Los Angeles having higher rental prices compared to smaller towns.

According to RentCafe, the average rent for a one-bedroom apartment in San Francisco is around $3,500 per month, while in Los Angeles, it is around $2,300 per month. However, in smaller towns and suburbs, the average rent can be significantly lower, ranging from $1,500 to $2,000 per month.

Healthcare Costs

Another important factor to consider when analyzing the buying power of a $70k salary in California is healthcare costs. California has a higher cost of living compared to other states, and healthcare expenses can be a significant portion of one’s budget.

According to the Covered California website, the average monthly premium for an individual healthcare plan in California is around $400. Additionally, out-of-pocket expenses for deductibles, co-pays, and prescriptions can add up. It is important to factor in these costs when budgeting for healthcare.

Grocery Budget

When it comes to groceries, the cost of living in California can impact one’s budget. According to the Numbeo website, the average cost of groceries in California is slightly higher than the national average.

However, it is important to note that grocery prices can vary depending on the location and the types of stores available. Planning meals, buying in bulk, and being mindful of sales and discounts can help stretch a $70k salary when it comes to grocery shopping.

Lifestyle Spending

While $70k can provide a comfortable living in California, it is important to consider lifestyle spending. California offers a wide range of entertainment options, such as dining out, attending concerts or sporting events, and exploring the state’s natural beauty.

However, these activities can be costly. It is essential to budget for leisure activities and prioritize spending based on personal preferences and financial goals.

Overall, a $70k salary in California can provide a decent standard of living, but it is important to carefully manage expenses and make informed decisions about housing, healthcare, groceries, and lifestyle spending.

How $70k Compares to Average California Salaries

When evaluating whether a $70,000 salary is good in California, it’s important to consider various factors such as location, industry, and experience level. These factors can significantly impact how far your salary goes in the Golden State.

By Location

California is a diverse state with varying costs of living depending on the city or region. For example, living in San Francisco or Los Angeles tends to be more expensive compared to cities in the Central Valley or rural areas.

In high-cost areas, a $70,000 salary may not stretch as far as it would in other parts of California. It’s important to take into account housing costs, transportation expenses, and other living expenses specific to your chosen location.

By Industry

The industry you work in can also impact how your $70,000 salary compares to average salaries in California. Some industries, such as technology and finance, tend to offer higher salaries compared to others.

If you’re working in a high-paying industry, a $70,000 salary may be considered lower than average. Conversely, if you’re in a lower-paying industry, a $70,000 salary could be considered quite good. It’s worth researching average salaries within your industry to get a better understanding of where you stand.

By Experience Level

Experience level plays a significant role in salary negotiations. Entry-level positions generally have lower salaries compared to mid-level or senior positions. So, if you’re just starting out in your career, a $70,000 salary could be considered a great starting point.

However, if you have several years of experience or are in a more senior role, you may expect a higher salary. It’s important to research industry standards and consider your own qualifications and experience when evaluating the adequacy of a $70,000 salary.

It’s important to note that this analysis is not exhaustive and individual circumstances may vary. For more detailed information, you can refer to websites such as salary.com or consult with professionals in your specific field.

$70k for Single Adults vs. Families

Typical Budget Breakdown

When considering whether $70k is a good salary in California, it is important to analyze the budget breakdown for both single adults and families. Single adults generally have lower expenses compared to families, as they do not have to provide for dependents.

However, this does not mean that single individuals do not face financial challenges.

For single adults, a typical budget breakdown may include:

  • Housing: 30-35% of income
  • Transportation: 10-15% of income
  • Food: 10-15% of income
  • Utilities: 5-10% of income
  • Healthcare: 5-10% of income
  • Debt payments: 10-15% of income
  • Entertainment and other expenses: 10-15% of income

These percentages may vary depending on individual circumstances and personal preferences.

On the other hand, families have additional expenses to consider. They must provide for dependents, such as children or elderly parents, which can significantly impact their budget breakdown. A typical budget breakdown for families with a $70k salary may include:

  • Housing: 35-40% of income
  • Transportation: 15-20% of income
  • Food: 10-15% of income
  • Childcare/education: 10-15% of income
  • Utilities: 5-10% of income
  • Healthcare: 5-10% of income
  • Debt payments: 10-15% of income
  • Entertainment and other expenses: 5-10% of income

Again, these percentages can vary depending on family size, location, and other individual factors.

Meeting Basic Needs

With a $70k salary, both single adults and families can generally meet their basic needs in California. However, it is important to note that the cost of living in California is relatively high compared to other states.

Housing, in particular, can be a significant expense, especially in major cities like Los Angeles or San Francisco.

Single adults may need to make some sacrifices and budget carefully to afford housing and other necessary expenses. They may need to consider living in shared accommodation or in less expensive areas to make their salary stretch further.

For families, meeting basic needs can be more challenging, especially if they have multiple children. Childcare and education expenses can be a significant portion of their budget, and it may be necessary to prioritize spending on these areas.

Disposable Income

Disposable income refers to the amount of money left after meeting all necessary expenses. With a $70k salary, both single adults and families can have some disposable income, but the amount may vary.

Single adults may have more disposable income compared to families, as they have fewer financial responsibilities. They may have more flexibility to spend on non-essential items, entertainment, or saving for the future.

Families, on the other hand, may have less disposable income due to higher expenses and financial obligations. They may need to prioritize their spending and make strategic decisions to ensure they can cover all necessary expenses.

It is important to remember that these budget breakdowns and financial considerations are general guidelines, and individual circumstances may vary. It is always recommended to create a personalized budget based on your specific situation and financial goals.

Steps to Manage Finances on $70k

Managing finances on a $70,000 salary in California can be challenging, but with careful planning and budgeting, it is definitely possible. Here are some steps to help you make the most of your income:

Choose Affordable Areas

California is known for its high cost of living, but there are still affordable areas within the state. Consider living in cities or towns that have a lower cost of living compared to major metropolitan areas like San Francisco or Los Angeles.

These areas often offer more affordable housing options and lower expenses for groceries, transportation, and entertainment.

Pro tip: Use websites like Numbeo or Best Places to compare the cost of living in different cities and make an informed decision about where to live.


One way to ease the financial burden is by having roommates or a dual-income household. Sharing the cost of rent and utilities with roommates can significantly reduce your monthly expenses. Additionally, if you have a partner or spouse who also contributes to the household income, it can provide more financial stability and allow you to save more.

Did you know? According to a study by the Pew Research Center, in 2019, 32% of adults in the United States lived in a shared household.

Budget and Save

Creating a budget is crucial when managing your finances on a $70,000 salary. Start by tracking your expenses and identifying areas where you can cut back. Look for ways to save on groceries, utilities, and transportation.

Set financial goals and allocate a portion of your income towards savings each month. Having an emergency fund can provide a safety net during unexpected situations.

Pro tip: Utilize budgeting apps like Mint or YNAB to help you track your expenses and stay on top of your financial goals.

Remember, managing finances is a continuous process, and it requires discipline and adaptability. By making informed decisions, prioritizing your expenses, and saving consistently, you can make $70,000 a good salary in California and achieve financial stability.


While $70,000 provides an above-average salary in California, it may only bring a middle-class lifestyle depending on your location and household size. With careful budgeting and smart financial choices, a $70k income can provide a solid quality of life throughout the state.

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